Places, spaces, races

Wal-Mart pulls out of Germany (thx to Derek for the pointer). Though Wal-Mart international is still the fastest growing segment of the behemoth of a retailer, it has learned that it's formula needs to be customized for specific markets.

In Germany, Wal-Mart stopped requiring sales clerks to smile at customers — a practice that some male shoppers interpreted as flirting — and scrapped the morning Wal-Mart chant by staff members.

Wal-Mart’s German experience also taught it to use local management. The company initially installed American executives, who had little feel for what German consumers wanted.

“They tried to sell packaged meat when Germans like to buy meat from the butcher,” Mr. Poschmann said.

Some of Wal-Mart’s missteps — selling golf clubs in Brazil, where the game is unfamiliar, or ice skates in Mexico — are so frequently mentioned, they have become the stuff of urban legend. But even more subtle differences in shopping habits have tripped up the company.

In Korea, Wal-Mart’s stores originally had taller racks than those of local rivals, forcing shoppers to use ladders or stretch for items on high shelves. Wal-Mart’s utilitarian design — ceilings with exposed pipes — put off shoppers used to the decorated ceilings in E-Mart stores.

Beyond the ambience, Wal-Mart’s shoes-to-sausage product line does not suit the shopping habits of many non-American shoppers. They prefer daily outings to a variety of local stores that specialize in groceries, drugs or household goods, rather than shopping once a week at Wal-Mart.

“They have stacks of goods in boxes,” said Lee Jin Sook, 46, a housewife sitting on a subway in Seoul. “That may be good for some American housewives who drive out in their own cars.” But Koreans, she said, prefer smaller packages: “Why would you buy a box of shampoo bottles?”

Wal-Mart is also not the low-price leader in many international markets.


A preview of Mac OS X Leopard. Spaces will be useful for my multi-tasking work style, though I'm not sure I need anything to encourage my hyperlink-fueled attention-deficit disorder. And also from WWDC, the Mac Pro, which sounds like a worthy successor to the Powermac G5.


Magnum in Motion features multimedia essays from Magnum photographers. Here is one example, on the Tour de France, with some gorgeous black and white photos of France.


Forgot to post this last last week, when Ken pointed it out to me, but the FDA finally approved Mexoryl for use in the US. Mexoryl is the magic ingredient owned by L'Oréal that has made L'Oréal's international sunscreens more effective than US sunscreens at blocking short UVA waves. US residents went to great lengths to get their hands on L'Oréal sunscreens, from purchasing it from online Canadian pharmacies to paying three to four times the retail price to obtain it from certain Upper East Side drugstores in Manhattan.

The first L'Oréal product containing Mexoryl to be sold in the US will be Anthelios SX, a daily moisturizing cream. Look for it this fall. As noted previously here, you can also go with Neutrogena's new Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock or Age Shield Sunblock.